Downing of the Russian aircraft: Who attacked whom?

Mashari Althaydi

Published: Updated:

Downing of the Russian Il-20 aircraft near Latakia and the death of all 15 people on board after it was shot down by the Syrian military exposes the complex picture in Syria. The incident exposes the depth that the Russian bear has dived into in Syrian traps.

In the beginning, Syrian regime media outlets cheered the ferocity of the Syrian air defenses as it later turned out that there was an Israeli strike by an F-16 on Iranian or Assad targets, which extend services to Iranian networks, including the Lebanese Hezbollah. These are red lines that Israel has frankly declared war on.

Russia’s interpretation of the crash or downing of its warplane is extremely strange and it implies evading specifying the source of the crisis. The Russian Defense Ministry said the aircraft, which disappeared near Syrian coasts with 15 Russian military personnel on board, was downed by a Syrian missile by mistake.

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The Russian statement confirmed that this happened due “to the hostile and provocative acts” of Israeli warplanes in the region. Russia’s “wise” statement added that Israeli fighters put the Russian plane in the path of Syrian air defense systems and did not tell Moscow about its strike on Syrian targets except a little while before they were carried out.

Israel rejected the Russian accusation and said the Syrian government and the Syrian defenses are fully responsible for the incident.

Russia, alongside the Iranians, are the ones protecting the Syrian regime, and it’s the one preying on Syrian land and airspace...so how will Moscow resolve this dilemma?

Mashari Althaydi

Generous support

What’s ironic is that the Assad regime’s air defenses were developed thanks to Russia’s continuous and generous support as the British Guardian newspaper had reported that the Russian army spent 18 months rebuilding the Syrian air defense system.

Iran’s military presence – whether directly or via Iran’s foreign militias like the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi and Afghani gangs – is rejected and viewed as direct act of war. This is the Israeli security viewpoint hence these are all always legitimate targets for Israeli fighters and missiles.

At the same time, Russia, alongside the Iranians, are the ones protecting the Syrian regime, and it’s the one preying on Syrian land and airspace – with apologies to his excellency President Assad – so how will Moscow resolve this dilemma?

Truth is the incident of downing the Russian airplane using a Syrian military missile (which was originally taken from Russians) is a warning bell to the wild Russian as Russia is not alone the master of the Syrian arena.

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The incident also reveals how poisonous this malicious Iranian presence is in Syria. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on what happened and rightfully said: “Yesterday’s unfortunate incident reminds us of the need to find permanent, peaceful, and political resolutions to the many overlapping conflicts in the region.”

He added that it also underlined the “urgent need to end Iran's provocative transit of dangerous weapon systems through Syria.”

Apart from the news’ bleak vibes, the Russian answer reminded me of Actor Adel Imam’s sentence in the play Shahed Mashafsh Haga (witness who saw nothing) as he complained to Lieutenant Colonel Ahmad Abdelsalam after the policeman harassed him.

“He slapped my hand with his face, Sir,” he said.

This article is also available in Arabic.
Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.